DOMINO 20 2019-12-12 10:52:00


Neptune must love us.  He welcomed us back in the water with wide open arms, blowing kisses and slapping our backs, with tears of joy and an all-nighter to remember!

November 26, 2019
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

It was a quiet afternoon, we had just anchored in San Carlos Bay, waiting for morning to fuel up and start our Mexican Riviera cruise.  True to our habit, we shunned the marina, its noise and forest of masts,  much happier in the bay, looking at the stunning “Tetas de Cabra” (Goat Teats) twin peaks, San Carlos’ postcard signature.  Our first night on the water in a year was perfect, until we took the weather report.  Ooops! Another Thanksgiving weather bomb was coming: a storm from the Pacific NW coast was swamping California and another storm SE of Mexico was churning up the Mexican coats.  Soon, we heard gale advisories for the Gulf of California.  We stayed put, anchored in 10’ of water over sand bottom.

By afternoon, the SE wind was ramping up into the 30’s.  San Carlos Bay is quite well protected from the swells and although it started getting sloppy-choppy, we weren’t worried.  Still, I kept an eye on our position, that’s my job on board… until I noticed that DOMINO was lying at 90 degrees from the other boats.  That’s a sure sign we were dragging anchor.  

Time for another Chinese Fire Drill!  JP fired up our twin John Deere 300 and I rushed to the foredeck, kissed by 35 knots of wind and buckets of driving rain.  It took some maneuvering to get us out of the jam: in these shallows, the chain had jumped over the bow roller and twisted all around it. Maneuvering any boat at low speed in high winds is a difficult task.  It took all of JP’s fine touch at the controls and his patience trying to understand the frantic hand signals that I invented on the spur of the moments to communicate a never-before encountered situation!  But team works always gets us through and we managed to disentangle that half-inch chain from the bow roller without ripping out my shoulder or cutting off my fingers (my absolute worst fear when working on deck) … and off we were to find a better anchorage.

NAVIGATION NOTE for San Carlos Bay.
– Anchorage in the shallows at the north end of the bay: not good holding, lots of grass (on which we slipped, we found out)
– Anchorage at Tomate (west end): not recommended, lots of abandoned moorings, poor-holding soft mud with junk scattered at the bottom: cement blocks, old chains… 
– Better anchorage in the middle of the bay  27*56.802N – 111*03.682W in 20-25’ of water, sand bottom… but can be patchy.  Test your anchor thoroughly, back down on it strongly.

Re-anchoring in a storm is never fun, even in warm weather.  JP found a new spot in the center of the bay, and we dropped anchor again, bridle again (that must be a quick maneuver, before the cat goes sideways!).  But upon backing up and applying tension on the anchor and chain, we started backing up… no go!  Up-anchor again, find a new spot, down-anchor again, bridle again, tension again: still blowing 35 knots, raining buckets,  but we are holding.  Time for a hot shower, a gallon of hot tea, deep breaths, and more anchor watch.

As night fell, the weather reports were damning.  Expect the conditions to worsen overnight!  So, we set up all our on-board anchor watch devices: Furuno, i-Sailor for iPad, Drag Queen app, and took turns.  JP can sleep through a storm, I can’t.  But we were holding pretty well, until the wind jumped to 45 knots and we backed up 15 yards!  I was biting the last of my remaining nails.  The boat anchored behind us started to look a bit close, but everything looks closer at night.  That boat was horsing wildly, fore and aft, right and left, so wild that it was hard to determine our relative positions.  But our on-board instruments showed that we were stable, hooked again. 

Panic call on the radio: “ALL SHIPS! ALL SHIPS!  I’ve just been hit by a dragging boat… 50’ blue-hulled Gulf Star.”  Time to keep our eyes open.
I was livid.  Never had I encountered such high winds for so long.  All night at 35-45 knots had me in a panic.  JP was checking on me every so often, not showing any worry —he never doe— but I kept asking, “How are we to re-anchor at night in such conditions.”  Thankfully, many of my Captain friends stood vigil with me, from all over the world.  Holly Scott from her boat in Tahiti, Philip Duss from his digs in South Africa, Steve Wedi from his trawler in Baja California, and more friends from Oregon, Paraguay, Florida… Holly shouted her FB command, “DON’T MOVE!” as she was reviewing the i-Sailor track we were recording… We stayed put, and finally, by 5 AM, the wind abated a bit, in the low 30’s, and I went to bed, reeling from another party night with Neptune.  I never thought that Facebook Friends would keep me going through hell night… time to get rid of that old SSB?

In the morning, the rain stopped and the wind dropped below 30 and we were treated to a splendid, fresh-scrubbed view of the bay.  

Fresh-scrubbed also was DOMINO, power-washed from her grime accumulated during a year on the hard, ready to take on some more!  But we would have to wait two more days for the wind to switch to the north, the 10-14’ SE swells to come down, for us to attempt the crossing of the Golf of California (Sea of Cortez), famous for its short, slapping 4-second waves that make any crossing a possible disaster.

This was a night to remember, one of the most difficult we ever encountered, another reminder that we are only 30 seconds from disaster.  Indeed, in the morning, we found that 50’ Gulf Star sailboat beached at the bottom of the bay, and it would stay there, battered by waves, for another two days before being towed back to anchor.

A humbling experience, a stern reminder from King Neptune to be always vigilant, always prepared, and to obey his rule!  

PS—- PICKLEBALL!   Oh yes, there is a wonderful pickleball community in San Carlos, great courts at El Mirador, above Marina Real.  We checked them out… on a rainy day!!  But they do have tournaments, clinics, some coming up in January.  Check it out!

Until next time…


Key West!

The Red Head crew has settled nicely into Key West. Dylan and Dora head off to the dog park every morning, while Mom takes Dee Dee on a long walk.

Dora is loving her dog park friends.

There’s so much to do.

Then the crew gets to relax on the back deck.

With so many boats and people passing there’s never a dull moment.

Cruising Again


Puerto La Cruz, Mexico
December 10, 2019

Never say never!  We are back on board after a year off the boat, a much-needed break after 9 years of full-time cruising and almost 55,000 NM.  But it’s a strange feeling to be back on the water: everything moves!!! How quickly did we forget!

  SO… what happened, where have we been, what of DOMINO?

After 13 years of vagabonding, we realized we were getting a bit older (well, not JP, just me) and that it was time to plan for the next 30 years or more.  That was a very hard decision.  JP would love to finish his life on the boat, cruising around, but I was starting to miss “something,” didn’t really know what, but life on board had suddenly become “short” — short on family and friends, mostly.  

Fooling around with grandchildren in Vanuatu

Company on board is an issue on which we were totally mistaken when we started cruising.  We should have been talking with seasoned world cruisers instead of landlubbers and would-be-cruisers.  We thought we would be swamped with visitors, friends, family, guests who would love to spend a week cruising exotic waters.  It all looked so romantic, extravagant, somehow “special!”  It turned out that visitors were quite rare.  Even now in Mexico, close to home, visitors are not showing up.   Why?—and this is a point to consider when you buy a boat and decide to go passage-making. 

Grandaughter Zoe and her best friend Q: thank you. parents, for trusting us and giving your kids this amazing time!

We can think of several reasons:
– Young people are still working, kids have school and sports activity, and in general have very little vacation time; 
– Offshore destinations are far from the mainland.  It often takes a day or 2 to get to the boat, and another 2 days to get back, 4 days of travel out of a 10-day vacation? A waste, in many people’s opinion;  
– Cost of an airline ticket… for sure!
– Planning: do we know for sure where the boat will be in 3 or 6 months?  Can we guarantee that we will be on time at the rendezvous point?  Most people plan their vacation way ahead of time;
– Retirees – We still have hope for them to show up!

In Fiji: These girls will never forget that Grandpa can actually provide coconut milk!
We have been lucky, though.  Our kids have made the effort to send the grandkids over, parting from $$$ and the emotional ties that bind the mother to the child.  
– Will my 7-year old be OK without mom and dad?  
– Will cousins get along

      Many of our guests were on-the-spur-of-the-moment happenings: 
– a stop in Washington DC
– a halt in Myrtle Beach
– a honeymoon leg in Panama, 
– a plane stop-over in Fiji, 
– a lunch in  Maui… 

Or planned… thankfully, 
– a week with our sisters on the Chesapeake, 
– and 10 days in The Tuamotus and Marquesas with our Tahitian friends, good sports and great company.  

Celebrating our 47th anniversary, all alone, in Rongelap, Marshall Islands

But overall, we were just a crew of 2.
Passagemakers as R. Beebe had described in his first book, and validating the need for a simple boat, with only one head and one stateroom.  It all makes sense now.  Is it just us?  Do we smell? Is my cooking awful or our bunks that impossible? Not really… we have met the similar comments from our world-cruising buddies.  Cherish the visits, because they truly are few and far between.

Walking the rim of a live volcano in Vanuatu… unforgettable!

But back on land… pointedly, where were we going to land?  We left the boat on the hard in Marina Guaymas, Mexico, and took a bus to Tucson AZ where we bought a car and did the only sensible thing: go cross-country to find a landing spot.  

Boat was sold… we thought… and off we were to our new home, The Villages..
oops… shouldn’t have counted our chickens!

California? Our old stomping grounds of Huntington Beach had become too pricey and too crowded; Prescott, where grandchildren are oh-so-sweet?  Too cold in winter, too dry;  Houston, where quilting friends would be fun to hang out with? Too big a town; Louisiana? Alabama? North Carolina? No appeal;  West Palm Beach, where we already had ties? Oh, no appeal there either.  A bit discouraged, we turned around and stopped in Orlando, had heard of this retirement community, The Villages, and I suggested it to JP… “Old people? No way, not for us!”  But it was a cold and rainy January day, I was tired of riding in the car for so long, and JP indulged my whim once more: The Villages was our next stop.  Well, it didn’t take long for us to jump into the lifestyle with both feet: heated pool in the heart of winter, golf carts all around, entertainment, and… PICKLEBALL!!!  And friendly people, most retired, all transplants, all eager to meet new friends… this was for us!  But not yet; we had to go back to the boat in Mexico and do the yearly maintenance.

Kiribati (AKA Gilbert Islands)… so remote!

DOMINO’s Maintenance for 2019.
It didn’t matter that DOMINO passed our potential buyer’s survey with flying colors.   After so much time on the water, JP had decided to give our girl a good make-over.  This was the perfect spot to do it: the Mexican state of SONORA is “Zona Libre,” a region where there is no import duty on goods from the US.  So, we loaded our Acura MDX to the max, and off we were.

Family in Tucson helped us load the MDX with a full load!
– New ODYSSEY batteries:  6 x 1800 house bank= 1280 AHR @ 12v or 640 AHR @ 24v.  and and 3 starting batteries (2xPC 1200 for engines & 1x PC1200 for Genset);
– New solar panels with 70% more power (4×280 Watts);
– Complete maintenance of all engines, pumps, impellers, oil change, etc..;
           – HRO water maker: complete inspection by HRO dealer.  Change ceramic seal on booster pump, no other service needed;
– SureSeals: install 3 new seals on starboard shaft; port side on next haul out;
– Refrigeration: professional inspection and service of freezer and fridge;
– Windlasses Maxwell 4000, both of them entirely refurbished; new seals, bushings, inspected and cleaned. Like new, now good for another 10 years or 800 anchorages!
– Anchoring: galvananize-paint both anchors, install additional bow roller for better stability underway;
– Cabin sole:  re-finished the wood floor;
– Stove: all new burners (yes, I cook a lot!)
– Fridge-freezer: Re-finish lid insulation, re-paint;
– New displays: MAGNUM inverter, SIMRAD autopilot;
– Tohatsu 18 HP outboard: entirely inspected and refurbished;
– Bottom paint, of course!

King JP in the Marshall Islands…. 

Does that seem like a lot?  Well, JP thought we would cruise another 20 years and really wanted Big D. to be ready for it.  And, if we don’t find a buyer, maybe we will be cruising another 20 years, half-and-half, sun-birds in Florida in the summer, Mexican Riviera cruisers in winter… who knows?  But DOMINO is ready for anything!
We are taking her along the Mexican Riviera for the season, and how sweet is she!!!

Marshall Islands, Rongelap Atoll – JP confiscated my paddle and is towing me back to the boat…
our 47th anniversary celebration

And many of you ask… “Didn’t you sell her?”  We thought so… our broker thought so… our buyer really wanted town her until, 24 hour before close of escrow, the buyer changed his mind.  Why? we will never know for sure.  It’s all conjecture at this point.  We have been mulling this over for several months now and we have a few thoughts we’d like to share with would-be cruisers.  

47th anniversary celebration… all by ourselves

Questions to ask yourself before buying a Passagemaker*
– Do I want to cruise the world? Am I willing to cross oceans? 
– Do I have time to do this? If still working, even part time, can I really commit to it, knowing that any Transpac will take 10-15 days?
– Am I ready to swing at anchor on most days or do I need the support of a marina?
– Do I have the financial resources? It’s not just buying the boat, but also maintenance and budget for the cruising time.  In other words, am I financially independent or do I need to work to support this lifestyle?

Our adventurous grandkids in Vanuatu – 
         – Is my spouse OK with this?  This is a team adventure.
         – How much of a handyman am I? Mechanics, electrical, electronics, fiberglass, paint… am I ready to slide under an engine and get my hands oily or do I rely on specialists for an oil change? Can I read a technical manual and make sense of it?

We never had a wedding cake-cutting … on our 47th anniversary, it was a must!

We have seen many wannabe cruisers be unable to actually manage a boat once far away from home.  So, the question is, “are you able and ready?”

So many sunsets!

Perhaps this has been a sobering post.  Perhaps we’ve tried to convey what we have learned in the last 13 years, our errors, our dreams, our successes, but we wanted to share, once more, absolutely sure that building this powercat was the right choice, that cruising the way we did was a total success and our lives have been richer in the process, wishing all of those who dream of such a life to go ahead and do it… do not wait, go cruising, with the right boat and the right partner.


Remember, life is short… live your dream… NOW!

All 45 flags out… feeling the joy in Majuro, Marshall Islands

Until next time…

* PASSAGEMAKER definition   A simple power boat, with economy and range, capable of crossing any ocean, simple enough to be operated by a couple who is not necessarily a professional mariner, with enough room to accommodate occasional guests.  

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